Want to hurl yourself off a 22,834-foot mountain, pretend you're on Survivor or crisscross the globe solving riddles? Look no further. Sure, you'll need to drop a grand or two—or 50—but consider the contribution you'll be making to cocktail-party-kind with your heroic tales of the most outrageous trips in the world.
Live and In Person
If spending a week among penguins, whales, and elephant seals with a group of strangers appeals, you'll come away a winner from this weeklong, mock-Survivor getaway. You and five others will fly from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to a bare-bones cabin with a fully stocked pantry on a rocky, uninhabited island in the Falklands. Each morning for the next seven days, the group will vote off one of its members. (According to what criteria? That's up to you and your fellow travelers.) The banished will be flown to a second cabin on another remote island. Spend your days strolling warm, white-sand beaches or (if you're feeling hearty) taking an icy dip in the South Atlantic. No Letterman appearances await the winner, but the stargazing is exceptional.
Outfitter: Tread Lightly, Ltd., 800-643-0060, www.treadlightly.com
When to Go: February–March
—Philip D. Armour
Go to Extremes
Botswana: Hard-Core Safari
No five-course catered meals, no hand-holding by guides, no hot showers—there aren't even tents to sleep in on this weeklong Okavango Delta walking safari. Instead, schlepp your own 30-pound pack; machete your way through the thick papyrus forests; fish, hunt, and forage for food (roots and wild tubers); and sleep under mosquito nets in primitive, open camps, taking two-hour turns standing guard (with .458 magnums) against predators. Your one indulgence: quality time with lions, elephants, and cheetahs.
Outfitter: Explore, Inc., 970-871-0065, www.exploreafrica.net
When to Go: May–September
Global: Who Wants to Be a World Traveler?
A quiz show for overzealous, overpaid wanna-be world travelers. Twenty-five two-person teams will spend three weeks jetting across the planet, earning points for answering location-specific riddles in each of the cities they visit. (Sample questions: What is Marrakech's "Assembly of the Dead?" What does Bobby do there? And what food does his cousin's stall serve?) The itinerary is top secret, but "contestants" can expect to travel by foot, bike, camel, elephant, ricksha, and oxcart in a minimum of ten countries on four continents and stay in first-class hotels as the teams battle for the grand prize: $50,000 and the honorific title of "World's Greatest Travelers."
Outfitter: GreatEscape Adventures Inc., 310-281-7809, www.greatescape2001.com
When to Go: May
Price: $22,000 per team (includes international airfare)
North and South Poles: Skiing to the Ends of the Earth
Few people ever reach one of the earth's poles, fewer still go to both the North and South Poles, and only the most masochistic attempt the two in one year. If you fit the bill, you'll ready yourself for the physical beating at a February training session in northern Minnesota. In April you'll battle minus-15-degree temperatures, 40-mph winds, and perilously thin, unstable ice on a 120-mile, 21-day dogsled-assisted ski from the 88th parallel to the geographic North Pole. In December, you'll do it all over again down south, skiing 60 miles from 89 degrees south.
Outfitter: The Northwest Passage, 800-732-7328, www.nwpassage.com
When to Go: February, April, December
Argentina: Paraglide from the Summit of Aconcagua
Introducing the latest in high-adrenaline, high-cost sports: para-alpinism! Climb up, glide down. Ultimate Ascents, the only outfitter running such trips, launched a group from Kilimanjaro last February, and this year will be the first to soar with clients from 22,834-foot Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas. After a week of glider training in Mendoza, Argentina, you'll begin a 21-day trek up Aconcagua on the Chile-Argentina border, for which you'll need basic mountaineering skills (familiarity with ice axes, crampons, and harnesses). At the top, you'll strap into a tandem paraglider with an expert pilot/guide and spend three glorious hours soaring over the Andes.
Outfitter: Ultimate Ascents, 530-897-0100, www.ultimateascents.com
When to Go: January–February, December